Introducing Environmental Humanities


“Respect for nature is the conscience of mind.”

Mustafa Kemal Atatürk


“Humanity and nonhumanity have always performed an intricate dance with each other.”

Jane Bennett


The burgeoning field of Environmental Humanities is a coalition of intersecting disciplines that address a wide range of environmental issues and the most urgent questions raised by global environmental challenges. It includes literary and cultural studies, visual and performing arts, music, history, philosophy, ethics, critical theory, media studies, and archeology. Scholars from across the humanities study the complex entanglements of humanity and nonhumanity, multispecies relations, climate change, plastic pollution, toxic embodiments, sustainability, environmental/species/climate justice issues, climate refugees, posthuman ecologies, the Anthropocene discourses, fossil-fuel economies, social policies and cultural influences on human perceptions and treatment of the earth. The field can be defined as an interdisciplinary research platform for collaborative partnerships. With the growing number of influential publications, conferences, workshops, seminars, and documentaries across the world, the field's main objective is to communicate the immediacy and impact of global environmental degradation. When scholars from the humanities, arts, social sciences, and natural sciences collaborate to investigate the interrelated social and ecological crises, they can catalyze greater environmental awareness, make a difference environmentally, and thus play a crucial role in problem-solving processes and show the ways in which humanity can change course.

One of these ways is re-storying the earth with new, ecologically oriented literary and cultural narratives that will be instrumental to change our ways of knowing and being in the world, to change the anthropocentric perceptions of the physical environments. Such a change would have important social and cultural ramifications, such as changing ecologically unsustainable social practices, policies, and cultural discourses. As ecocritic Summer Harrison expresses it in her article “Environmental Justice Storytelling:” “how we tell stories influences how we act in the world,” and “narratives affect how we understand environmental problems and solutions” (ISLE 24.3 [2017)]: 458, 459). Therefore, we need to cultivate our capacity to invent "new practices of imagination" (Haraway, Staying with the Trouble, 2016: 51). The new contemporary genre, known as climate change fiction (or Cli-Fi), for example, makes us rethink our cultural modes of imagining the relations between humans, other species, and the environments.

Environmental Humanities investigates how profoundly the social and the political are entangled in the natural, and how disturbingly the anthropocentric thought and set of attitudes continue to determine the current ways of relating to the earth. In order to change the way people perceive and treat the earth, environmental humanities scholars have been working hard to free knowledge structures from anthropocentric shackles, to rethink our being in the world and our relations to other species in ecologically responsible ways. Although experienced differently at regional scales, the global climate change, for example, is fueled daily with the anthropocentric mindset so closely allied with the fossil-fuel economies, and so are all the environmental problems we encounter: plastic pollution in landscapes and waterscapes, deforestation, wildfires, species extinction, soil degradation, drying lakes and rivers, and all forms of environmental injustices. In short, anthropocentrism feeds the social, ecological, and political processes of domination and exploitation, repression and oppression. To effectively step up on these environmental challenges, Environmental Humanities centers and programs in higher education around the world study the impacts of climate change and other environmental issues in the cultural imaginary. These centers and programs have been contributing effectively to finding sustainable solutions to a host of environmental problems, using transformative ideas from literary and cultural studies, arts, and philosophy.

Environmental Humanities Center at Cappadocia University has joined this international consortium with the aim of spreading environmental awareness with ecologically oriented discourses in classrooms, conferences, seminars, and workshops both regionally and internationally. The Center supports the idea that collaboration is the key to resolve environmental challenges, and supports interdisciplinary research that advances knowledge about human-nonhuman relations in social, cultural, scientific, and historical contexts. In contesting anthropocentrism, spreading environmental awareness, developing ethical ways of addressing social and environmental complexities, and investing in ecologically oriented cultural discourses, we work on climate change, nature-cultures, human/nonhuman relations, toxicity, bodies, posthuman ecologies, the Anthropocene complexities, environmental/species/climate justice issues, global pollution, and a host of related matters within both a global and a national context. The goal of EHC at Cappadocia University is to foster ecologically oriented transdisciplinary research. Ecological threats know no borders or divisions and travel freely without any restrictions, so do our projects and ideas.


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